When the Green Bay Packers travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in the NFL Divisional Round on Saturday, a lot will be made of how different these two teams are compared to when they met in Week 1. In fact, a lot of people are already making those contrasts in their game analyses. One of the big changes to the 49ers offense is, of course, the emergence of Colin Kaepernick at quarterback.
A lot of talk concerning Kaepernick will revolve around the option offense that he runs. His mobility and the threat of running backs like Frank Gore and LaMichael James make the scheme a difficult one to stop. But one thing that can’t be overlooked is the ability of Kaepernick to throw the ball deep.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Colin Kaepernick is the most accurate starting quarterback when it comes to the deep ball (throws of 20 yards or more). His 60.6% accuracy percentage ranks significantly higher than most, and even the second-ranked quarterback in this category – none other than Aaron Rodgers – boasts only 53.2% accuracy.
He’s also attempted more deep passes than most, with 15.1% of his dropbacks ending up in long downfield throws. (Only Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Jay Cutler, Josh Freeman, and Jake Locker have attempted more.)
And on his 33 deep attempts, Kaepernick has completed 19 for 595 yards, 5 touchdowns, and one interception. With 10 touchdowns on the year, that means half of them have come on the deep ball.
In short, the Green Bay Packers defense will have its hands full on Saturday. Not only must the front six or seven work to contain the rushing game, but the secondary must shut down the big play. The safeties in particular will play a key role in this game, as they will have to stay in position to keep the receivers in closing distance. They won’t be able to crowd the box and bite on the run as they were able to do against the Vikings.
The cornerbacks will also have a full plate on their hands, with the likes of Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and Vernon Davis to contend with.
My initial thoughts are that Charles Woodson could be a liability in this game. While he has the physicality, mental quickness, and instinct to be a thorn in the 49ers running attack and option plays, his physical limitations due to age could end up leaving the corners high and dry deep down the field. If he takes the wrong chance or doesn’t get deep enough, he could let a receiver through the safety net.
And unlike Joe Webb from last weekend, Kaepernick will connect on that opportunity.
As a young player with limited experience, Colin Kaepernick may not be able to control the offense like Aaron Rodgers does; however, he makes his money on the big plays. Whether it’s taking off on the option read for a first down or making a deep throw to swing momentum, Kaepernick is a game-changer. Against the Patriots in December, he made a couple of deep touchdown throws that allowed the 49ers to take a big lead and eventually overcome the offensive explosions of Tom Brady.
Dom Capers and the Packers defense will need to limit the big play and keep Kaepernick from doing what he does best if they want to have any success on Saturday. Make him manage the game instead of unleash it.——————Follow @ChadToporski